Although we’ve seen other bird-flu stricken states take short-term action to prevent the sale, trade, and exhibition of live poultry (see North Dakota BAH Limits Poultry Movements), a longer term concern has been what to do about the myriad of state and county fairs that run throughout the summer and fall.
Minnesota, which holds one of the largest state fairs in the nation, becomes the first state to extend their moratoriums on the exhibition of poultry through the summer fair season.
Minnesota’s county fair schedule kicks off in mid-July and runs through mid-September. The State Fair, held in St. Paul, starts on August 27th and runs through September 7th. Agricultural exhibits are always a huge draw, and 4-H members, and many others spend countless hours each year preparing for and anticipating these events.
Today’s Minnesota Fair Website has the following announcement posted, which precludes the showing of poultry at any public venue through the end of 2015.
The Minnesota State Fair has canceled its poultry shows for the 2015 Great Minnesota Get-Together. The cancellations are in response to the directive issued by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. For the 2015 State Fair, the Poultry Barn will feature interactive displays and presentations about Minnesota’s poultry industry and its huge contribution to the state’s economy.
Throughout its 160-year history, State Fair livestock shows have been modified, restricted, and even canceled for animal health reasons. The most recent occurrence was in April of 2014 when no regional horses were displayed during the Minnesota Horse Expo due to an equine virus.
The State Fair works closely on animal health issues with a variety of agencies and veterinary experts. For decades, these groups have included the Board of Animal Health, the Minnesota Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, The University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Minnesota 4-H and FFA and a variety of animal producers associations.
Further information on the H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) is available at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health’s website: www.bah.state.mn.us.
The full directive, released about an hour ago on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s website reads:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2015
Fairs, swap meets, exotic sales and petting zoos will not include birds
ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Board of Animal Health today announced its directive to cancel all bird exhibitions at county fairs, the State Fair, and other gatherings of birds. The Board’s directive is effective through the end of 2015 and also prohibits birds from being included in swap meets, exotic sales, and petting zoos.
Since March 5, 2015, nearly 90 Minnesota farms have been impacted by H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The purpose of the Board’s directive is to minimize the risk of potential further spread of the virus. The risk to the public related to H5N2 HPAI is very low and there is no food safety concern.
“Taking this step makes sense,” said Dr. Beth Thompson, assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. “We need to do everything possible to get rid of this virus and preventing the commingling of birds from different farms is one way to do that.”
Animal health officials met with leadership of the Minnesota State Fair and University of Minnesota Extension earlier this week to discuss the situation.
“This is a critical time for Minnesota’s poultry industry, and we’ll do whatever it takes to help,” said State Fair General Manager Jerry Hammer. “The Board of Animal Health has absolutely made the right decision. We’ll use this as an opportunity to further educate people about the challenges of food production.”
“University of Minnesota Extension 4-H's priority is youth and their learning experiences," said Brad Rugg, Extension 4-H and State Fair and Animal Science program director. "Some 4-H'ers will be disappointed that they won't be able to show their poultry projects at fairs this summer, but we're exploring alternate learning opportunities to offer them at fairs and will share more details as plans develop. Part of our job developing the next generation of agriculture leaders includes teaching youth best practices to ensure the health and safety of the animals they raise, and this is that learning being put into action in the real world."
Minnesota’s poultry industry has experienced the largest impact as a result of HPAI. Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota said, "We know the decision to halt poultry exhibitions at our county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair was not an easy one to make. This certainly affects the 4-H kids who plan for their projects all year long, and also means fewer opportunities for fairgoers across the state to learn about raising poultry. However, this is the right decision because what's most important at this point is protecting the health and well-being of the birds that are being raised by 4-H’ers, FFA members, and Minnesota’s poultry farmers."
Representatives from the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, Minnesota State Fair, Minnesota 4-H and Minnesota Turkey Growers Association will provide statements and answer questions pertaining to the 2015 bird exhibition decision.
It seems likely that we’ll see other bird-flu affected states follow suit in the coming days, since even if the virus subsides over the summer, it is expected to flourish once again in the fall.